This post is part of our new Heart of Autism series, where we highlight individuals with autism giving back to individuals with autism in unique ways. Erin Clemens has been spreading autism awareness by selling bracelets she makes. Her blog below was originally published on the Art of Autism website.
“The autism awareness bracelets I make symbolize hope, dreams, and positive futures. They symbolize for me the childhood of understanding and acceptance that I never had and that’s priceless.” - Erin Clemens
My name is Erin Clemens. For 15 long years, I was confused. People were angry with me, and I could never figure out why. They seemed nit-picky. I tried SO hard to understand, but nobody knew that I was just DIFFERENT.
When I was in 10th grade I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. While at the time it didn’t mean much to me (I hadn’t changed), I began to learn more and more about it. Others started to understand me better. Finally, my life was making sense, and people were listening to me. That’s when I knew I had to help educate others. I didn’t want others to go through the difficult times of being undiagnosed like I had.
That same year (2005), I was diagnosed, I also lost my purse. Since my money was IN that purse, I had no way of buying a new one. So I looked up online to see how to make one. The first search result that I noticed was about duct tape. Well, I had duct tape! Grabbing the roll, I quickly got to work. In about 2 hours, I had made my first item out of tape. But I didn’t stop there. I created wallets and a tie for my Dad (who proudly wore it one time for a picture when I gave it to him on Father’s Day.) and SO much more.
My favorite items were the bracelets. So colorful and easy and fun to make. A few years later, I noticed how when I used different colors, they looked like puzzle pieces from the Autism Awareness ribbon. I quickly grabbed the autism colors and put the first Autism Awareness Duct Tape Bracelet together.
People noticed it. They WANTED one. But it didn’t seem right to just make money off of autism. So I decided to see how much money I could make and donate it to an autism cause. They sold like wildfire. The first year I made about $150. I wanted to do it again the next year, in 2012. By the end of the year, I had made enough money to buy an iPad AND a military grade case and screen protector for a class of students with autism.
This year, 2013, I hope to sell even more. I opened a PO Box and I’m wishing to sell them internationally to spread the word about autism. I take money orders only. I’ve created a Facebook page for the bracelets which I hope you all like. My dream is to not only to raise money, but to bring autism awareness, acceptance, and understanding all at the same time. The autism awareness bracelets I make symbolize hope, dreams, and positive futures. They symbolize for me the childhood of understanding and acceptance that I never had and that’s priceless.
I plan on giving the money I make this year to the ARC (and hoping to see it through to the final impact). They helped to get me into the right school setting that I needed in order to graduate, and NOW they are trying to help me find ways to advocate more. I know that the work they do will help others as it did me. For more information, please visit The Arc of Chester County.
To purchase the bracelets, send a money order for $6 per bracelet and a return address label (Erin has trouble reading handwriting) to Erin Clemens, PO Box 1873, West Chester, PA 19380. Specify small, medium, large or extra-large. April is autism awareness month. Help spread the awareness!
Erin Clemens, 23, moved out of her parent’s home in 2012. She participates in a community integration program in Pennsylvania. Erin is a poet and artist. Her poetry is on this website and in the book The Art of Autism: Shifting Perceptions. Buy it here!
Do you know any stories you’d like to share for our Heart of Autism series? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org! We would love to hear from you!